Recently, I had a discussion with a fellow on LinkedIn about the Technical Support role. He wanted to know more about day to day activities and if it make sense to switch to such a role from system administration.
In this post, based on my experience I will try to describe and answer some common questions related to the Technical Support career. Other people who are interested to start a career in this field will gain some insight.
What skills are needed for Technical Support?
The answer to this question is: it depends. Different companies are looking for different skills. Usually, you need to have some fundamental skills on different technologies and you need to know how different protocols work. Some examples to take into account:
- AWS or knowledge of other cloud platforms (Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform )
During technical interviews you may be asked questions from the same topics.
Besides technical skills (hard skills), almost all companies are looking for a mix of soft skills like the ones below:
- Attention to detail
- Good listening
- Communication skills
- Problem solving
- Collaborative working
- Openness to learn to new things
What are the daily main activities?
Usually, for the most part of the day, you will need to work on customer cases. You will need to update cases based on company SLAs (Service Level Agreement). The number of cases on which you need to work daily is different for each company. Most of the companies have targets (KPIs) of closed cases per month. Based on the case difficulties and how long it takes to solve an issue, the number of the closed cases per month range from 12 to 80. Other activities that you may have are:
- Writing KBs (knowledge base) articles
- Learning new technical topics
- Online meetings with colleagues or different teams
- Replicating issues/problems in the lab
What working on customer cases means
You will need to understand the customer’s problem and to solve it. For this you may need to exchange emails with the customer to collect additional information, you may need to join remote sessions to collect the information yourself or troubleshoot the issue live. A lot of the time will need to be allocated to reading logs and checking past cases for similar issues. In some cases, you will need to replicate the issue in your lab and open a bug with the engineering team for fixing it.
There are also Technical Support roles where you need to answer customer calls. Usually you cover a period of 2 to 3 hours. During this period, most of the time you cannot work on existing cases because you receive calls and you need to open new cases, collect information and, if it is a critical issue, you may need to join a remote session with the customer. I find this the most stressful part of the day. You cannot do anything besides sitting on the phone. 🙂
Is working in Technical Support rewarding?
I would say, yes, it is rewarding. You have the opportunity to work with new technologies. You meet a lot of people who are passionate about technology and who are happy to help you when you struggle. You have the opportunity to start from nothing (I mean not knowing a lot in the IT field) and to achieve an expert level in a specific topic. You work with a lot of people, a lot of customers and you can establish very good relationships.
What is the salary/compensation in Technical Support?
I cannot give you exact numbers, but I may say that you will receive good money for this position. Most of the salaries are greater that the median salary for the country where you work. Beside the salary, you may receive shares in the company for which you work. For example, if the company gives you 100 shares when you sign the contract, these are usually split over a period of 3-5 years. This way the company motivates you to stay longer with them. What you need to know is that you will need to pay taxes for the shares, which are pretty high. And in the end, from 100 shares, you may remain with half of them or even less. So your main focus should be the salary during negotiation phase.
Do you need to work on weekends? How long is a shift?
The short answer is, it depends. There are companies, where you need to work on call, which means you need to work on weekends and on bank/public holidays. There are companies where on call is optional and you may choose if you want to participate or not. What you need to know is, usually, the on call is paid separately and is not included in your salary.
Every company has its policy for on call shifts. In some companies, the shifts are 6 hours long, in others it may be 48 hours (the whole weekend). And, of course, there are shifts with something between 24 hours, 12 hours or 8 hours. You need to ask these details during the interview process.
Do you need a specific certification in order to work in Technical Support?
It is not mandatory to hold a certification. You may be employed without any certification. There are companies where you need to spend the first 3 months for acquiring different certifications. What I can say is that, for me, the certification made a difference. When I moved from Moldova to Romania, I applied to a lot of jobs, but no company offered me a position even if I had a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology. After getting the CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) certification, I received multiple offers from different companies. So, it is a differentiator and helps you stand out in front of recruiters.
Technical Support role names in different companies:
- Technical Support Engineer
- Customer Support Engineer
- Support Engineer
- IT Support Specialist
- Customer Reliability Engineer
- Cloud Support Engineer
Some companies that have Technical Support Engineer open positions:
I hope you will find this post useful. If you have additional questions related to Support jobs, please let me know.
What is your experience in Support roles?